“Real” Writer – Part Two

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Image from Dreamstime

 

So… I have an update on my last post (delay courtesy of Thanksgiving weekend!).  I heard back last Monday from the editor and learned that my story wasn’t accepted.  I’m trying to see this as an opportunity to send the story to another market and maybe hear back more quickly, but it’s my first rejection and I can’t pretend that I wasn’t a little upset.  Still, all I can do is move on and keep trying.  One day, I’ll get my first yes.

 

Fortunately, I didn’t have to think too hard about it over the weekend, as I spent some time with my parents, helping them build a deck and playing with their new dog Gypsy.  She’s six and was rescued from a broken home, and she’s the sweetest little girl that I’ve ever met.   Only time will tell if she gets along with my cats (they have yet to be introduced).

I am a “Real” Writer

Tows and ropes

Image from Dreamstime

 

I forget where I read it, probably because I’ve seen it in several places, but I’ve seen lately that “real writers ship”.  Which means, to send writing out into the world, to be read and to change lives.

 

Well, I haven’t shipped very much to date.  I’ve submitted to a couple of contests, but otherwise, nothing.  Fortunately, that changed last week!  I’ve been working on  a short story for an anthology that I heard about in July, and on Tuesday, I sent it out!  I’m proud of the little story, although I have no illusions that it will actually be accepted.  I think it’s a neat concept though, that I can recycle or re-use if it doesn’t get accepted.

 

In the meantime, please cross your fingers for me!  I should hear by the end of the year, and it will be my first “real” published piece (and will pay!) if it gets picked.  If not, I might just share it here!

 

Are you a “real” writer?  What have you shipped?

Reflections on a Year

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Image from Dreamstime

 

 

I don’t know if I’ve posted about it before, but just over a year ago, I started tracking how and on what project I was spending my writing time.  This includes everything from research/development, to editing, to critiquing, to career research.  My ultimate goal is to get to 2,000 hours written total, which is the point at which one is considered “proficient” in a craft.  10,000 hours of work means one is a master.  Given that I’m at 1626.5 hours to date, I’m close to proficient, but far from a master.

 

Another benefit of tracking is that it’s ended up teaching me a lot about how and when I work and where I spend the bulk of my hours.

 

On August 13, 2012, I completed my first year of tracking.  In that time, I have:

  • Done 118 hours of research and development (including outlining)
  • Spent 185.25 hours on first drafts
  • Spent 45.75 hours editing
  • Written over 195,000 words
  • Spent an average of 6.7 hours/week on writing or related tasks

 

Of those hours, I spent:

  • 208.5 on novels
  • 34.5 on short stories
  • 34.25 on critiques
  • 18 on blogging
  • 16.25 on my April Screnzy graphic novel
  • 6 on flash fiction
  • 31 on other writing related projects

 

I think it’s pretty obvious that I need to spend a little bit more time editing, so I expect to see those numbers creep up over the next year.  I also want to start spending more time on short stories (which kind of means that I need to start writing more of them), although I am generally pleased with where I’ve spent the rest of my time.

 

I was a little surprised by the total number of words and especially the weekly hourly average, given that it was about 5 hours/week a few months ago.  Clearly I’ve gotten that much more serious in the last few months!  It’s interesting to see how I was rather slow the first few months, but that quickly picked up in the months that followed.

 

Theoretically, in less than 400 hours (about a year at my current rate) I should be close to ready for publication.  That is and has always been the ultimate goal, but I think that a little more dedication, much like I’ve been putting in recently, will really help.  Of course, the time I put in can only do so much – it needs to be quality time too.  And that’s the real struggle, isn’t it?

 

How do you track where you’re at with your career?

On Fear and Rejection

This is what an editor looks like, right?

This is what an editor looks like, right?

Image from Dreamstime

 

I went to When Words Collide, a local writers and readers conference, this weekend.  I attended last year, and enjoyed it enough to attend again this year.  Of course, we put on a NaNoWriMo panel that went really well (much better than we anticipated), but there were so many other highlights that I couldn’t even begin to share them all with you now.  Maybe in the coming days, as I have time to process all that I have learned, I will be able to summarize some of the key lessons.  Most of the best information was actually shared by Kevin J. Anderson and his lovely wife Rebecca Moesta, and I suspect that I will be telling you a little bit more about those lessons as well.

 

The theme of this weekend seemed to be taking risks.  First off, I signed up for a blue pencil cafe (a one-on-one with an author or editor to review the first few pages of a manuscript).  Sadly, mine was a little rushed, because another author had to cancel so they tried to shove us all through, but I still got some valuable feedback.  Second, I decided somewhat last minute to attend a Live Action Slush Pile (more on this in a bit).  Finally, my partner was brave enough (and ready enough) to try pitching to a local publisher and was asked to submit a few chapters.  So positive news all around.

 

What I really wanted to talk about today was confidence.  I’ve blogged before that I’m new to sending my work out for others and a little worried about rejection.  I’ve only submitted one story to date, and that was for a writing competition (I wasn’t even long listed) with no harsh letter or feedback on the other end of it.  So when I submitted my first page to the Live Action Slush Pile on Saturday night, I was nervous.  The point of a Live Action Slush is for editors to listen to a bit of your manuscript and decide whether they liked it or when they would stop reading if they were reading from a slush pile at a publishing house.  My poor first chapter only made it through two paragraphs before three of the four readers stopped.

 

At first, I was crushed.  I worked hard at that opening paragraph, and I thought it was pretty good.  It didn’t help when the two entries after mine were writers that I know and were read all the way through.  I tried to brush it off, but it was pretty clear to me that it still needed a lot of work.  In what was perhaps a backwards sense of timing, on Sunday I decided to attend a panel about fighting fear and rejection.  While it didn’t reveal much to me that I didn’t already know, at least superficially, it was positive to hear that everyone else had some of the same problems with confidence as I do, especially at first.

 

I learned that emotions (especially fear) can colour how you receive a response, that I need sounding boards beyond friends and family (maybe my critique group is good enough?), and that it’s okay to be upset about a rejection, like I was the night before.  The most important thing that I picked up, though, was that we are in the business of no.  99 times out of 100, the answer will be no.  And although that’s hard, that’s the nature of writing.

 

So I’m going to try and look at my submissions a little differently from now on.  From now on, I am a rejections collector.  I’m going to collect as many rejections as I can and get more than anyone else that I know.  And eventually, maybe after the first 99 NOs, I’ll finally get a YES.

 

How do you handle rejection and disappointment?

The Zone

Originally posted January 29, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

I woke up today, filled with determination

 

 

dreamstimefree_3193230 Photo from Dreamtime

 

I was ready to take on the world!  Or, more importantly, the mess in the basement…

 

My house has been more or less a disaster for the last year, ever since I got the brilliant idea of putting in hardwood upstairs (with only my dad and I doing the hard work!).  Finally, after thirteen months, I’m starting to put my house back in order.  With the help of my handsomer half, I’ve spent the last month organizing the upstairs, including getting a functional kitchen back again (yes, there’s still work to do up there, but it’s useable now).

 

The next task on the agenda?  The basement.  The place where all of my junk was dropped until the renovations were done.  The place that is small and tight with all of the furniture, boxes, piles, etc. in there.  The place where my office will be.

 

I spent four hours today setting up my new writing/crafting zone and, while it’s not yet perfect, it’s at least functional (I’m writing this very blog post from it).  I’ve even gotten rid of a few things I didn’t need anymore.! Now, I just have to keep going through the boxes, sorting through books, and hanging things on the walls.

 

Then I will take pictures to share.  Because what fun is completing something if you can’t share the result with the world?

 

Where is your special writing zone?

Learning to Let Go

Originally posted February 5, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

This week I did something terrifying…

 

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Photo from Dreamtime

 

… no, not that.  Although that would be terrifying too.

 

No, this week, I released some of my babies into the world.

 

Not real babies.  My stories.  I can’t believe you’d think like that!

 

Now, I don’t share my writing easily.  I guess I’m afraid of rejection, of being told that my writing is terrible and that I should give up on it.  Especially when it comes to my novels; I put a lot of time and energy into them, and to be told that they are absolute rubbish would really hurt.

 

But this week, I sucked it up, and sent a short story and chapter one of “Fighter One” out to my critiquers.  They are all nice people who wouldn’t deliberately try to make me feel bad, but I still worry that they will tell me that my novel’s broken.  The novel that I’ve had in my mind for over a decade!  I keep having to remind myself that they only want to help make it better, that the concept and world of the story aren’t as bad as I think they are.  It’s normal for me to lose faith in the concept at this point in the process (I’m at the 25% point of completely re-writing the thing.  Completely.  I think I’ve kept maybe three pages of the original document…) but that doesn’t mean I want to hear it from others.

 

This is a necessary evil and something that I need to get over if I’m ever going to be published, since publishing by necessity means that I’ll have to let complete strangers rip my babies to pieces.

 

My story babies, not my real ones.

 

So I read them over and made them the very best that I could, and then I held my breath and hit the “send” button.  It felt very freeing, but scary at the same time.  I know my babies are in good hands, and I have to trust that they’ll have the impact that I want them to have.  They have to be read to have that impact, after all.

 

But critiquers?  If you’re listening?

 

Please be gentle!

The Muse Returns?

Originally posted January 26, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

Maybe… maybe not.

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But like wisps of steam rising off a freezing pond, ideas are slowly coming to me.

 

I posted a few weeks ago about how my muse has abandoned me.  At the time, I felt like I had the drive and the motivation to work but, other than my novel, no good ideas.

 

I still can’t claim to have any good ideas (I can’t claim anything is good when I’m still so close to it), but I did find some inspiration in the suggestions of my twitter followers.  Consequently, I just finished draft one of a short story that came to me, nearly all at once, at the zoo last Saturday.  I’ll have to get some other people’s input onto it, but I’m excited about it.  It’s dark, and unusual for me, but maybe that’s just the thing I’ve been looking for.  As a little drawing of a coffin in my Pintrest account says “You’ll have a whole eternity to think inside the box.”

 

I also have one short story about 2/3 done and another plotted and ready to go.  I’m not sure that I’m crazy about them yet, but I’ll finish them and drop them in a drawer for a few months and see if I can find anything redeeming in them.

 

In more positive writerly news, the novel I am currently re-writing is going well and I am nearly at 15,000 words!  Just another 65,000 to go!  It stands a good chance of getting done before the end of June, which would be nice, because it gives me a fair chunk of time to do some plotting and planning before NaNo this year.  What am I going to write this November?

21 Days Later…

Originally posted January 22, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

As I mentioned in my Writing Goals post, I want to make writing more of a daily habit.

 

This means, among other things, that I need to write… daily.

 

Wow, I’m the master of the obvious, no?

 

Anyway, conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to make something a habit.  Although my goal was to dedicate 3 nights per week to writing, I’m happy to report that, so far in 2012, I have written (at least a little) every day!  And at least three nights per week have been even more dedicated to writing (i.e. – a minimum of one hour in front of the keyboard).

 

I’d say that I’m well on the way to making writing a firm habit.  Most days, I’ve even been excited to sit down in front of the computer, to see where my muse will take me (a feeling I can’t remember having in the last year or so!).  Even though she abandoned me, I still feel her influence.

 

I’m super excited about (most of) the stories I’m working on right now, and hope to use them to enter some contests. Time will tell, I suppose!